Houston Astros: Top Positional Prospect at Each Position
Spring training is primarily used to get the players ready for the season as well as to allow players to battle it out for any open spots in the lineup. The Astros roster was pretty much set before pitchers and catchers showed up so this was a good opportunity for management to evaluate some of the young talent.
It has been well documented that the Astros farm system is not one of the best in the majors, but that doesn't mean they don't have talent working to get better so they can help the Astros in the future. This is a list of the top players at each position currently in the Astros system.
Catcher: Mike Kvasnicka
Mike Kvasnicka was the 33rd-overall pick in the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft and some wonder what is his best position. He could potentially play in the outfield, at third base or, the place I think he would fit best at, catcher. There aren't many options at the catcher position in the farm system and if Jason Castro can't come back from his season-ending knee injury, this will be a position of importance heading into 2012.
In 68 games with the Tri-City Valleycats, a Single-A affiliate of the Astros, he hit .234 with five home runs and 36 RBI. He is a switch hitter who has shown above-average power. If he does develop into a quality catcher, he would be one of the first to provide some pop from the catcher position for the Astros in a long time.
First Base: Koby Clemens
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Some believed when Koby Clemens was drafted that the Astros were doing their star pitcher at the time, Roger Clemens, a favor by drafting his son. However, Clemens really came on the last few years and he is making some noise in the minor league system. Last year at the Double-A level, he only hit .241 but he had 26 home runs and 86 RBI in 127 games.
This spring he played well again in the intra-squad game, winning MVP honors to go along with winning co-MVP at Corpus Christi last season. At every level, he has shown a lot of power in that bat and if he continues to do that over the next year or so, the Astros will need to find a place for him on the major league roster.
Second Base: Delino DeShields Jr.
Another prospect in the Astros system who is the son of a former major leaguer is Delino DeShields Jr. He was the eighth overall draft pick in this past draft and some thought he may have been a reach getting drafted that early. He is a very speedy player who has the ability to play at either second base or in the outfield, but he doesn't have the strongest arm and he would most likely fit best at second.
He only played 18 games in the rookie league last year but he hit .289 with eight RBI and five steals, getting caught once. He is still young and he is a few years away from being considered for a spot with the Astros. But he has shown enough to this point to be the top second baseman in the farm system.
Shortstop: Jiovanni Mier
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Jiovanni Mier was drafted by the Astros in 2009 and he saw his first at-bats in spring training this season. He went 2-for-6 with two runs scored and one double. He will most likely see the majors at some point in 2012. He won't be called up for his hitting, but rather his defense. He is an above-average defender and Baseball Beginnings believes he has the tools to be the best defender at his position in the majors.
Last year he hit .235 at the Single-A level. He will need to work on his plate discipline as he did have 107 strikeouts in 118 games. He was able to knock in 53 RBI over the course of the season.
Third Base: Jonathan Villar
Jonathan Villar, whose primary position is shortstop, is another player who hasn't spent too much time at this position, but he would fit well here. The reason he is put here instead of Mier is because Villar has a much stronger arm and he could make those long throws across the diamond. Like Mier, Villar has defensive skills but he did commit 56 errors last season and that is why he may be more suited playing a corner infield position.
Villar is a switch hitter who has some good speed on the base paths and hit.322 last season in 132 games. He had 55 RBI and 45 stolen bases, However, he is a little bit of a free swinger and he only collected 38 walks last season. There is also some concern that he does not have enough power to play a corner infield spot, only hitting five home runs in 2010.
Left Field: J.D. Martinez
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If the left field position opens up this year, either because Carlos Lee is traded or moved to first base, Martinez will be the player called up to fill the void. He has been a terror at the plate for opposing pitchers at every level he has played at. Last year, he spent time at both Single-A and Double-A and he hit .341 between the two levels with 18 home runs and 89 RBI.
He also hit well after coming back from an injury earlier this spring, hitting .250 with three runs scored and three RBI in eight games. The reason he will fit best in left field is because he does struggle a little bit in the field and he does not have the best arm strength. Playing with the Crawford Boxes in left field, these weaknesses will be minimized for the player.
Center Field: Austin Wates
Austin Wates was another draftee in the 2010 MLB Draft. Because of the lack of depth in the farm system, he shoots up to first at his position, which I see as center field. In college he spent time at first base and left field, but he doesn't have the power at the plate to play first base. Last year he played left field and center field and he was perfect in the field playing center field.
He also has plus-speed on the base paths and he projects as a top-of-the-order batter. In 12 games for the Tri-City Valleycats, he hit .321 with six RBI and 11 runs scored. Even though he is the best center fielder in the farm system, he is still a couple of years away from contributing at the major league level.
Right Field: Ariel Ovando
Yes, a 17-year-old is the top prospect at right field, but he has scouts raving about his skills. He already is 6'4" and 180 pounds and many scouts love his presence at the plate in regards to his bat speed. They believe his power will continue to develop as he gets older.
Ovando received a bonus between $2.4 and 2.6 million, which is the franchise record for an amateur player. Baseball America has a video of Ovando taking some batting practice and you can see why scouts are excited about what he is capable of doing.
Pitcher: Jordan Lyles
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Jordan Lyles is the top overall prospect in the Astros farm system. At 20 years old, he is proving he is ready for the major leagues. He has been in a competition with about four other pitchers this spring for the final spot in the Astros' rotation. In five appearances and 13.2 innings of work, he has only given up three earned runs which amounts to a 1.98 ERA. He struck out nine batters and he only walked two.
However, since he is still young and only had six starts at the Triple-A level, the Astros will most likely decide to send him down to the minor leagues to get a little more work before calling him back up later in the season. He will most likely be with the team around the All-Star break.